Apparel Does Say Something

by Tom Wacaster

There was a most interesting editorial in the Dallas Morning News on May 2, 2001.  It was entitled "You're right to be wary of gangsta chic," by Leonard Pitts.  I must admit that there were two words that caught my attention, mainly because I was unfamiliar with the meaning.  "Gangsta" is slang for "gangster" (the "r" has migrated to who knows where), and "chic" means "style or urban fashion in clothing."   The gist of the article was avoidance of certain contact with strangers who "dress" in a style that classifies them with a specific element in society; in this case, youth gangs.   He writes, "Kids always have outfitted themselves according to ever shifting ideas of what constitutes cool. But gangsta chic is about more than cool. The universal perception and frequent reality is that it also is about sending an implicit threat."   And then he makes this most astute observation:

"I often hear kids insist that dress is neutral and how dare you stereotype them based on what they wear. Fine. It is the argument you would expect them to make. But it is an abrogation of responsibility for adults to encourage them in that delusion. Better to explain to them that what you show the world, how you allow yourself to be perceived, will have profound implications for the way people treat you."

The world judges us by the way we dress. If a woman dresses like a harlot she is going to be propositioned.  If a young person dresses like a 'gangsta,' he or she should not be surprised if otherwise cautious folks avoid any contact or association with them.  Now, lets apply this rather obvious truth to some other areas beside 'gangsta chic.'  

First, the principle is true with regard to "modest apparel."  Scanty clothing says something to those who see us. It is a "come on" to the opposite sex.   Some of you may remember the hijacking of T.W.A. Flight 847 back in July of 1985.  The Houston Chronicle carried this interesting bit of news about that event. One lady passenger was being molested by one of the hijackers. Fortunately, for her, he was restrained by his leader.  The leader, after restraining his fellow hijacker explained to her that the short pants she was wearing was inappropriate and had conveyed to the terrorist that such advances might be welcomed by her.  A few minutes later he brought her a blanket and told her to wrap it around her waist.  In spite of the 100 degree temperature in the airplane, she kept the blanket on the rest of the ordeal.  But I can hear someone say, "Well, this is a free society, and I can dress the way I want."  Evidently some think that what is lawful in the eyes of society is automatically acceptable to God.  Evidence suggests that some of our sisters in Christ have bought into this lie.  The Bible still says that we are to dress in "modest apparel."  Meanwhile, let a man gaze after a scantly clad woman, and she will be the first to cry "foul" should she become aware of his gazes [or worse].

But I must address another area that concerns me no little.  There is an increasing trend toward sheer sloppiness in what we wear to worship.  It used to be that we had our "Sunday-go-to-meeting" clothes and the first day of week was one of those rare occasions when you could tell that a person was going to church by the way he dressed.    Neatness tells us that we respect ourselves and others, but sloppiness says we just don't care.   While there may be some who cannot afford a nice dress shirt and tie, or a nice dress, this is the exception rather than the rule in our affluent society.  I have attended high school graduation exercises, and Baccalaureate services where young people were dressed in decent, neat, and respectful clothing, only to see them appear the following Sunday morning in rags, blue jeans, and baggy and sloppy dress as they come to worship God.   We are witnessing young ladies wearing shorts, loose blouses, and skin tight jeans as they gather to worship their God; and that with the parents consent [or at least without any voice of opposition from mom or dad].  Mr. Pitts was right on target when he pointed out that it is "an abrogation of responsibility for adults to encourage them in that delusion." Unfortunately parents are often derelict in this area as well.  When we come before God in worship we are to have a contrite spirit (Isa. 66:2).    That spirit is reflected in the way we dress and conduct ourselves in our worship, as well as our every day behavior.  Brother Mack Lyons hit the nail right on the head:

"No! God does not have a dress-code for worship and work! Of course He does not.  He assumes the humble, worshipping heart will dictate proper attire and behavior. A true spirit of awe, reverence, and worship dictates dignity and propriety in dress and demeanor. God does not command us to kneel or stand or bow our heads when we pray, but doing so manifests a humility of heart that honors and respects the sovereign God whom we praise and petition. So does proper dress." 

Before you dismiss this as so much "preacher talk," why not stop and think seriously and soberly about it. 

Statistics: Symptoms Of A Deeper Problem

"Statistics: Symptoms Of A Deeper Problem"
Tom Wacaster

Statistics are a means by which we measure certain trends. Our government can guess the direction the economy is going by examining the "leading economic indicators." These are nothing more than statistics from retail sales, national gross product, etc., gathered and studied by "experts" (the definition of which is still under question). But you see, statistics are but symptoms of some CAUSE. Retail sales are NOT the cause of economic trends, but are the EFFECT of some trend as it is reflected in the purchase power and practice of the people. In the first chapter of Romans, Paul describes a morally degenerate gentile world. Verses 24-32 catalogue the sins of a godless society. But the sins were only symptoms of a deeper problem. These people knew God, but chose not to have God in their knowledge (Vs 21-23). They willfully and purposefully turned their back on the Creator. The CAUSE, rejection of God, led to the SYMPTOM, moral degeneration. As it was in the first century, so it is now. Now, let us bring this matter closer to home. Beginning in the 1850's and extending into the early 1900's there was a division in the body of Christ of major proportions. The mechanical instrument of music and the missionary society drove a wedge between brethren, splintering the church of our Lord. The CAUSE in this unfortunate circumstance was statistically manifested in the introduction of innovations, divided churches, etc., but these were only symptoms of a deeper problem, mainly a lack of respect for authority of the scriptures. It would seem that the "cycle" has run full circle and once again we are facing the issue of authority, manifested in varying symptoms. Instrumental music, institutionalism, and unauthorized innovations are rearing their ugly heads once again; some old, some new. But these are only SYMPTOMS of the age old issue of establishing Biblical authority. Either some do not know HOW to determine authority for some action, or they do not care. The end result, if allowed to go unchecked, will lead to unauthorized actions, vain worship, and tragic division. "And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus...." (Colossians 3:17). There is another danger closely attached to the subject under consideration. That danger is the willingness to compromise a principle for the sake of unity. It is, in essence, a willingness to forego a stand for truth in order to avoid confrontation. The late David Lipscomb once noted:

"Those most hurtful in drawing evil into the churches, that divide and weaken and destroy the innocent, are the noncommittal that agree with all and oppose none. The most effective worker to bring in evil is one who does not favor it, but can work with it. He is so liberal and generous that he does not desire it, but sees no harm in the evil...The man who does not vigorously and actively oppose an evil really favors it"

Once such a state is reached wherein one can conscientiously work with error it will not be long before he not only tolerates that error, but becomes a participant therein. This is why godly elders, preachers, teachers, and faithful members will oppose error at its early stages of development. It is not that we are cantankerous. It is, rather, that we realize that early symptoms, if properly treated, will keep the body pure and healthy. We realize that to be true when it comes to treating physical illness. Why is it that we so often fail to realize this simple truth when it comes to the spiritual body of Christ, the church? Think about it.